As we go from day to day in our busy lives, there is always a feeling in the back of our mind that we need to please ourselves as well as others. You know the feeling, the guilt that creeps into the back of your mind when you call off dinner or decline to go out for a drink with friends. You might decline all of these because you are tired, worn out or just not interested but you always feel selfish when you say no. The thing you should always remember is that it is okay to focus on yourself first. Making sure you take care of your own needs is not selfish and is instead the best way to ensure you are capable of helping others as well.
Self-Care Is Not Being Selfish
Let’s clear up one misnomer right away, that taking care of ourselves is the opposite of being selfish. In fact, ensuring that you are in a good place mentally and physically is one of the best ways to ensure you can be there for others. Think of it this way: when you are on a plane, you are asked to put your oxygen mask on first and then help the person next to you. It’s the same thing in your own life. Absolutely be there for other people, but make sure you are taking care of yourself first. If you are exhausted, you are of no use to anyone else who needs your help.
When You Have Nothing Left to Give
The more we fill our lives with responsibilities and priorities of others, the more it can drain us of our own energy. We all want to give something every day. You want to help your spouse or partner get the kids ready for school, make a meal or help a colleague out with a project. We don’t want to do it because we should but because we want to help. If you are able to take care of your own needs first, you will be more than ready to support others around you. You are then far more able to help your spouse or your colleague. Everyone benefits from this renewed sense of self.
Do What You Love
Think about how you feel after you have just finished something you love. How do you feel after you finish the last class at the gym? Your body may feel tired but your mind may feel invigorated and ready to tackle the world. When you sense that feeling or when you are just generally excited, you can offer significantly more energy to those around you. When we take care of our needs first, we are ensuring that our next interactions with others are far more positive. The more recharged and renewed we feel, the more everyone gets to see our best selves and the more we can be there for others.
Stress Is Bad for Everyone
Surprise! Stress is bad for everyone. Okay, so that is not shocking, as the more we fill our lives with responsibilities, the more stressed we can become. It will come as no surprise that it can inhibit the relationships around us. Stress can affect both mental and physical health. When we feel stress, it can prevent us from enjoying other aspects of our lives. Do you have a work deadline and a friend’s birthday party on the same day? Stress affects how we relate to other people, and trying to please everyone may result in pleasing no one.
Have No Expectations
At one point or another all of us have likely been guilty of feeling like we have given someone everything we have. When we did not get the same back in return, we felt crushed or resentful. It’s very easy to believe others will reciprocate the same level of concern you have for them. Sadly, that is not always going to be the case. It’s important that you do not let anyone take advantage of you. You should absolutely have no expectations of receiving as much as you give. Instead, remember that self-care is your responsibility and not someone else’s.
Avoid Worrying Too Much About Others
Although we spend lots of time worrying about others, excessive attention to concerns other people have can be problematic. Sometimes it forces us to be involved in situations we are not comfortable in (and maybe didn’t want). It’s important to be sure that before we try to help solve everyone else’s problems that such aid is actually welcomed. People may resent interference even if your intentions are good. It’s important to see the difference between taking it upon ourselves to help someone and not letting them learn by solving their own problems.
Putting It All Together
Ultimately, what does focusing on yourself before others really look like? It goes without saying that self-care is essential, but it will look somewhat different for everyone. Our individual preferences play a significant role in discovering how content we are. The most important thing to do is to not lose sight of your needs by focusing too much on others. According to a 2018 study, focusing on yourself and others can lead to increased happiness. Your goal should always be to find the right balance between self-care and helping others. Unfortunately, it’s not always black and white.
There are lots of tips and tricks on how to focus on yourself. A lot of them say the same thing differently, but they all tie together in the end. Focusing on self-care is incredibly important. Helping others should matter to you but not at the expense of taking care of yourself. You will find that when you are in a good place mentally and physically, you are the best version of yourself with others.